Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 2012 in Review

Happy Leap Day everyone!

When I was feeling down this weekend about not being able to run I took my frustration out...on my injured leg. Then on Monday I noticed that a different part of my shin bone was hurting and I realized that I had a lovely bruise right where my fist went to town. Good job Kristin! Clearly I know how to win at life.

Regarding my injury, I have a doctor's appointment on Monday. It was the earliest I could get into see him when I called 2 weeks ago. Honestly I thought I'd be better by then, but looks like I won't be, so I still plan on going.

The pain is lessening each day, but I find it hurts the most when I get up in the morning. Some things I've read online tell me that is a tell tale sign that it is shin splints and not a stress fracture and others tell me the exact opposite.

Have you ever had shin splints or a stress fracture? Which tends to hurt more in the morning and dissipate throughout the day? 

But on to business:

Mileage Recap

A year ago - February 2011: 75.69
Last month - January 2012: 181.21
This month - February 2012: 86.84

Boo injuries!

It's interesting that last February I accrued about 75 miles in 17 runs and this month I accrued almost 87 miles in only 8 runs.

I was supposed to hit 200 this month. Oh well, I guess 200 mpm is the new 31 mpw. I'll get there someday. Patience, patience.

What went well

February wasn't all bad. In fact the one race I did went really well! I PR'd and ended up finishing 8th woman. Not too shabby.

I reflected on all of the progress I made in only a year.

I also got my butt back into cross training and got back on the foam rolling train.

What didn't go well

Well, obviously the big thing that didn't go well was that I got injured after my 50k. I don't blame that race nor would I go back and change anything about that day. I blame everything leading up to it. I was clearly having a rough week right before it and didn't back off when I should have.

Losing, what has now been, more than two weeks of running is extremely challenging mentally, emotionally, and physically, but good things come out of injuries, like better self-awareness about my body.

March 2012 Goals

In order:

1) Heal
2) Run

I originally had two races scheduled for March: the Rock 'n' Roll USA Half on 3/17 and the HAT 50k on 3/24. I have already emailed the HAT to tell them I won't be running. As of now I still plan on running the half marathon, but I think 31 miles the following weekend would not be the best idea, at least not in a "racing" situation when I might push too far. I would be much more upset about backing out had I not already run two 50ks this year. I learned a lot from both of those races and I think I will be okay not doing another one before the 50-miler.

I WILL continue to cross train with at least one day at the pool and one spin class a week. No excuses!! I will also stretch, foam roll, and ice every night. I swear, I swear, I swear!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"So That's Like Your Life"

From a discussion with a co-worker this week:

"So, how often do you run?"

"Typically Tuesdays - Thurdays with a double run on Wednesdays and then 3-4 hours on Saturdays and 2-3 on Sundays."

" that's like your life then?"

"Uhh yeah, I guess it is."

I did pretty good this week with the whole no running thing. I swam a lot, hit up a few spin classes, tried pool running (awesome by the way!) and all the while my leg was feeling better and better. I'd say it's about 85% healed. Then the busy weekdays full of work and school went away and Saturday morning showed up.

I have been in a super crappy mood all weekend. I had huge intentions to go to yoga and a power hour spin class, but I ended up being so upset that I skipped it all and sat home and sulked. I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. And why was a feeling like this?? Well, what have a done every weekend for the past 15 months? A long run. What could I not do this weekend? A long run, or any run for that matter. Problem identified!

The thing about my co-worker's comment is that it's 100% true. Running is a huge, massive part of my life and I absolutely love that it is.

I don't mind giving up my weekend for several hours of running.

I don't mind that I spend more money on running clothes than real life clothes.

More often found in Lululemon than jeans

I don't mind zoning out on the couch in yoga pants with Mike following a long run and watching movies for the rest of the day.

I don't mind the fact that my collection of running shoes is starting to rival the number of ballet flats that I own.

I don't mind that I plan the rest of my life around my training runs and races.

I don't mind having a resident ice pack in my office freezer and several more taking up space at home.

I don't mind that I have a pair of compression sleeves on under almost everything I wear.

I don't mind almost always being in a constant state of "I could use a shower."

I don't mind that my bank account sees most of it's purchases from race registrations and sporting good stores.

I don't mind running in the freezing cold or the heat of summer and getting up before dawn to do so.

I don't mind the fact that I've abandoned regular novels for magazines and books about running and that my nightstand looks like a one stop shop for foot care.

I don't mind when my co-workers look at me funny when they ask me what I'm doing this weekend and I say "running" every single time.

I don't mind using my vacation days for relays and race recovery instead of actual vacations. 

I don't mind not getting pedicures because my nails are too short.

I don't mind missing a happy hour (or all of them) because I have a training run scheduled. 

I don't mind bad training runs or bad races...

...because they all won't be bad

I wouldn't trade any of those things for anything. I just love to run.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Magic of Massage and Foam Rolling

If you are a runner, foam rolling is something you should be doing every week, if not every night to soothe and massage your fatigued muscles. Unfortunately I only seem to start doing it once I feel an injury coming on, but in a perfect world it is part of my daily evening routine: eat dinner, do homework, foam roll, bed.

When I first threw down 20-some dollars on a 6-inch wide, 3-foot long cylinder of black foam I had no idea what the heck I was supposed to do with it. But thank god for You Tube, where you can find plenty of video how-to's for foam rolling.

I don't demonstrate nearly as well
The foam roller I have now is sad and crushed in the middle, which means it's not as effective as it once was. Next paycheck I am stepping up my game and investing in something a little sturdier and a lot more vetted. Trigger Point's 'The Grid' foam roller is supposed to be life altering amazing.

Trigger Point 'The Grid'
Two weeks ago I also picked this baby up for easier on-the-go relief:

The Stick Marathon Stick
If foam rolling still isn't doing it for you, I absolutely suggest getting a sports massage. For me the two things are very similar: they're supposed to hurt like hell during, but afterwards you feel great!

Great, but all of a sudden sleepy
I get a sports massage every four months or so. I should really do it more often, but I'm cheap. I had my first of the year yesterday and it was fantastic. I gritted my teeth most of the way through, especially when my shitty left leg was getting worked over, but guess what: my shins hurt a lot less as soon as I was done. Magic? I think so!

Do you foam roll or get sports massages?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring: It's Coming

First of all, thank you for all of your kind and encouraging comments about my injury. Obviously I'm not the first person to ever be sidelined from running. It sucks, but I'm done complaining about it for now, at least on this blog. No one wants to read some whiny girl complain about how she can't run and her life is over. I'll keep my sulking relagated to the non-blogging world (sorry Mike).

So, since I can't really talk about my running, I'm exploring other things to talk about, such as the impending spring season!

By now this kind of "winter weather" should seem totally expected

There are so many lovely things about spring like:

Parks in bloom


Farmer's Markets



Oh, there will be so much froyo

Outdoor Bike Rides

Who are those crazy people who still do this in the winter? Not me!

New Shoe Debuts

In pretty new colors. Saucony Kinvara 3 hits stores May 1.

Running Crops

Yes, Lulu I will take one ten please

Awesome Spring Races

Broad Street sold out in 5 hours this year! Luckily Mike, myself, and almost every one of my friends were able to snag one of the 30,000 spots!

What are you looking forward to most this spring?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Superwoman I Am Not

I really want to be able to do it all:

- Work 40 hours a week
- Go to graduate school
- Get all of my homework and studying done
- Finish planning my wedding
- Run 50-60 miles a week
- Cross train
- Eat right
- Get enough sleep
- Clean my apartment
- Stop and smell the flowers
- AND run awesome races once or twice a month.


That would be awesome. Sadly though, I can't do it all. I'm not superwoman, even if I put up the pretense that I am. The problem with trying to do it all is that you end up not doing any one of those things extremely well. They all end up being kind of half-assed and quality begins to count for less.

The first few days off after an injury are never that bad. You take up some more cross training and suddenly you have all of this free time to do other things. And then you reach a new point where, after a few days, you realize you don't feel better. Maybe you even feel worse. And things start to look bleak.

I'm at that point with my injury where it's just become depressing and frustrating. I thought I felt better yesterday and tried to run. After a half mile I broke down crying. The pain was so terrible. It felt even worse than it did last week.

So I guess I'll just be here waiting. Spinning, swimming, and waiting. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Forced Hiatus

Pop quiz: What happens when you run a 50k when you've already been having shin splints and other left leg issues?

Answer: When you try to run two days later you find you can't, because your left leg has decided to take a hiatus from running.

Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely upset not to be running this week (like seriously extremely upset), but there are three things that are making it not so bad:

1) I just ran an awesome race.

2) I had an exceptionally large amount of homework this week. If I hadn't been forced to stop running, I surely would have sacrificed a bit of studying in favor of miles. And, let's face it, that's probably not the best idea.

Running is great. Translating this lovely stela for my midterm? Probably better.

3) Mike and I are leaving for a long weekend in the Poconos to celebrate our anniversary, which means I will probably be doing many other things, like skiing and shopping and relaxing, and won't mind not running. Luckily these injuries keep falling around weekend trips when running would have been difficult/bothersome to fit in.

Kristin's recipe for quick healing:


2) Anti-inflammatory

3) Cross Training: What's better than running? Nothing. Nothing is better than running (I may be slightly biased). But that doesn't mean I'm going to sit on my ass all week because I can't put one foot in front of the other on the pavement. Plus, it's healthy to workout some other muscles.

In dire need for some sweat and a caloric burn the size of Manhattan, I hit up a spin class and the pool this morning. You know I'm injured when I go to spin class. I hate spin.

I heart exercise-induced sweat

4) Ice Bath: This is something new I'm trying out. Coincidentally Claire wrote a how-to post for ice baths the other day and it convinced me to give it a go.

The obligatory "I'm badass/a little crazy/hardcore" ice bath photo. Also, these things are good for healing too. Go figure!
I followed Claire's instructions to a T, including the hot cup of tea. That was seriously a great idea.

Hopefully I'll be back in action soon. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shoe-minations: Brooks Pure Grit

At the beginning of this month I received a long awaited special delivery: my new Brooks Pure Grit!

I had been interested in trying these shoes since I purchased the Pure Flows back in November. I was immediately in love with the Flows, and after trying theGrits on in store they seemed to have a similar construction.

Two major features of the Flows and Grits that I love:

1. A wide toe box for my monstrously wide feet
2. Decent cushioning while maintaining a minimalist profile

When I'm running in my Flows I feel like I'm floating on air and I had hoped the Grits would offer the same feeling for trail running.

I now have a little over 40 miles on the Grits and have taken them on some decent trails, including this past weekend's 50k.

As you can see, it was a muddy, muddy mess. Mess aside though, the shoes held up remarkably well. Much of the water drained out of my shoes almost as quickly as it seeped in. I did almost lose them a couple of times in the mud, but I think that was more of the mud's fault. I didn't get any blisters or chafing. Because of the generous cushioning, the bottoms of my feet didn't ache when I ran over rocks. This was a welcome experience after running over rocks in my Minimus Trails, which had the oposite effect.

I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to restore them after the race, but 10 minutes in the tub and they were good as new.

I did notice while cleaning them that there is already a tear in the right shoes near the laces. Considering the trails I was on weren't the most technical, I am a little disappointed that they have torn already, but I did trip over a sharp rock at one point, so perhaps that was the culprit.

Overall I am surpremely happy with these shoes. The only real downside to them, and to all of the Pure Project line, is that they are only good for 250-300 miles instead of the usual 350-400. I didn't realize that when I purchased the Flows, but now that I know I am starting to see that they are losing their cushioning at a little over 250 miles. The only reason this lower mileage is a negative thing is because it's my bank account that will suffer as I have to buy new ones more often.

 Still, for me, they're worth every penny!!

What trail shoes do you run in? Have you tried the Pure Project line?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Difference a Year Makes: From 5k to 50k

You could say a year is a long time. Four seasons. Twelve months. 365 24-hour days. Yup, a long time.

Exactly a year ago from this past Saturday, on February 12, 2011, I ran my first race ever: The Cupid's Chase 5k.

At that point I had only been running for about 5 months and was in training for my first half marathon. My friend Julia convinced me to sign up for the 5k to get race experience. I really didn't think it would be a big deal. My long run the previous weekend was 6.5 miles. A 5k would be a piece of cake right?

I remember the race was very unorganized and we stood in the freezing cold for a long time at packet pick up, the line barely moving. When I finally got up to the table they handed me my bib and an XL race shirt. "Sorry, that's all we got left." Great. Can't even get a properly fitting shirt for my first race ever.

Around 10 am the few hundred or so runners gathered at the start line. Snow was piled up on the side of the bike path and was spilling onto the course. The sound to start went off and everyone rushed forward. There was so much jostling around and elbowing to get space. We were like cattle rushing out of a barn.

After about a mile or so it began to thin out. My breath was strained. It felt like forever and we weren't even at the turn around yet. Finally I saw the orange cone signaling the halfway mark. "It's about freaking time, man!" The way back seemed just as long, but at least I wasn't elbowing anybody for space anymore. I saw my friend Julia up ahead and decided to try my best to catch up to her by the finish line. I sprinted with all my little might and crossed the tape. A volunteer tore the bottom part of my bib off, tacked it to a board, and logged my time: 29:00 minutes even.

I was disappointed I didn't do better. I was shocked at how difficult I found racing to be. How could I ever possibly expect myself to run a half marathon three and half months later?

It wasn't until two races after that, during an 8k in April, that I finally learned how to race, how to pace myself, and how to enjoy the experience. It was a major breakthrough for me, feeling like I could turn it out on race day when I wanted to.

Soon after that day I would pick up Ultramarathon Man and decide that doing ultras was something that interested me. But I knew that it would be at least a year before I could even attempt something like that. A year seemed so long.

Exactly a year later, four seasons, twelve months, 365 24-hour days, I ran another race, except this time I added a zero on after the 5. From 5k to 50k in a year. Really, anything is possible so long as you have enough patience and determination.

And clearly I need to get new detergent for my whites

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Redemption: Mid-Maryland 50k Recap

To see a map of the course, a brief description, and read my goals visit my previous post here. Post-race I found an elevation description. Each loop was about 670 feet gain, making the whole 5 loop course about 3300.

In an effort not to repeat what happened two weeks ago and with snow in the early morning forecast (why does this only happen when I have a race?), Mike and I decided to drive down to Maryland on Friday evening. This meant that on Saturday morning we woke up at 6 am instead of 4 am and drove 25 minutes to the race instead of more than 2 hours. A good decision this was!

Fresh inch of snow on the ground
The race was held in Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, MD. All runners gathered at the main pavilion, which would also serve as the start line, finish line, and aid station for each 10k loop.

It was devastatingly beautiful out

I picked up my bib and also had Mike pin my bib for Sherry on my back. I actually counted 4 other runners wearing bibs for Sherry, which is crazy considering it was such a small race and none of the runners knew each other previously. Oh the magic of the interwebs!

The race director spoke to the crowd of 120 runners, some signed up to do a 5 person relay, others (including me), ready to tackle all 5 loops on their own.

Right before the start. Decided to ditch my jacket in the 35 degree weather. Good decision.
We started out right at 8 am. The race director decided to lead the first loop since the snow had covered most of his course markings.

And off we go!
I'm in the purple towards the left
Let me preface the rest of my recap by saying that I encountered three major problems during this race:

1) Shin splints in my left leg
2) Mud (oh, so much mud)
3) A surprise UTI (I'll get to this later)

Loop 1:

As soon as the pack headed off I was right behind them, intent on keeping up. I spent the whole first loop gasping for breath, but I was so eager to see what the whole loop was like, that I let myself get caught up in the quicker pace.

For all of my fears of hating the course from the get go, it was exactly the opposite. The first mile was through the fields, which wasn't great, but the other 5 miles of single track trails were amazing. The snow made it all the more beautiful. They did correctly describe the course as "tame." For all of the huffing and puffing I did through the first loop, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and began strategizing for the remaining 4 rounds.

Coming out of the woods toward the pavilion

I finished the first loop with remarkable speed: 59:xx

Loop 2:

Before heading off on the second loop I sent about 25 seconds at the aid station, exactly according to plan. I grabbed my hand held from my drop bag, said "hi" to Mike and my friend Greg who came to watch, and headed out again full speed.

I ditched the hand held and my ear warmer a quarter mile in when we made our way back around by the pavilion.

I know that for the rest of the loops there was no way I would be able to come in under an hour like I did the first time, but I figured if I added 5 minutes each time I could still come in around 5:30 which would be utterly fantastic.

My left shin started hurting a bit, but I kept going. I wasn't going to stop unless the pain was debilitating.

Second loop done: 1:05:xx, total time ~ 2:05:xx

Loop 3:

After finishing loop two I made a quick stop in the porta potty, grabbed some food, and made my way to loop 3. I knew loop three would be tough, but it would also be where I met the halfway point, and that was the mental boost I was looking for.

About 3 minutes into running I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again. Weird. I just went. I figured I'd just stop the next time around, but it sort of bothered me the whole third loop.

In addition to having to pee, the mud on the course was getting ridiculous. The combination of snow/rain the night before, warming temperatures, and about 75 runners traipsing through the same paths now 3 times, made for some muddy conditions. On the first loop there were muddy parts, but they were manageable and you could go on the edges. On the second loop it was obvious that they had worsened. By the third loop, most of those edges had disappeared and you had no choice but to slow down and walk through some parts.

Even after I hit the halfway point, I began to feel very disheartened because of the deteriorating conditions of the course. Knowing I still had two loops to go, I knew they would not get any better.

Third loop done: 1:21:xx, total time ~ 3:25:xx

Loop 4:

I made a pit stop again before starting loop 4. I knew there was a problem when I tried to go but couldn't, yet still felt like I had to. That's when I realized I probably had the makings of a UTI that began after loop 2. Seriously, who the hell gets a UTI at mile 12 in a 31 mile race? I do apparently.

I walked most of the first half of loop 4. Every time I started to run it would feel so uncomfortable that I was brought to tears. I thought about DNF-ing. I didn't think I would be able to run through it. I already knew loop 4 would be the toughest loop mentally. It was near the finish, but still wasn't the last loop.

Eventually I realized if I ran in long enough spurts the discomfort would go away. I had already lost a lot of time though. And of course the mud was even worse. At one point I thought about changing my socks, but I figured what was the point as the new ones would already be soaked a quarter mile later.

As I came through the pavilion at the end of loop 4 I saw my mom had arrived. I almost burst into tears I was so happy to see her.

Fourth loop done: 1:21:xx, total time ~ 4:46:xx

Loop 5:

At this point my 5:30 was definitely out the window, and I was pretty sure sub 6 was as well. It was the last loop though, so I was happy enough about that to keep going. I tried to run as many parts as I could of the 5th loop. By this point the snow was entirely gone. It was crazy to think that just 5 hours ago it looked like a winter wonderland.

The last half of loop 5 my spirits were lifted. I saw Mike, Greg, and my mom around mile 4 of the last loop. I shouted to them: "see you in 30 minutes or less and have a Dr. Pepper ready for me!" Home stretch!

During the last two miles I began passing people, which is always a unique experience when you start doing it at the end of a race. It was clear that some of those people were still on their fourth loop. Finally, the finish line was in sight!

Headed through the pavilion to the finish line
Fifth lap: 1:22:xx

Final time - 6:10:15

No it's not my sub 6, but it is ONE HOUR AND 11 MINUTES FASTER than my 50k only five weeks ago.

While I am positive that without the mud, UTI, and shin splints I could have easily landed sub-6 if not 5:30, this is the land of what is, not the what if's. I worked my ass off and came out muddy, but satisfied on the other side.

The aftermath
Everything I learned from the last race I took with me and used it during this race. And it worked. My biggest fear going into this race was that I would hit the same mental barrier as last time. My stomach was in knots for days leading up to it. But I didn't encounter that mental barrier. Mentally it felt as tough as any other race.

What I Ate:

Pre-race: Banana, peanut butter granola bar, 3/4 cup honey nut Cheerios
After Loop 1: Water, 1.5 Fig Newtons
After Loop 2: 1/2 cup Gatorade, handful of Goldfish crackers
After Loop 3: 1/2 cup Pepsi, handful of Lays potato chips
After Loop 4: Water, 6-7 animal crackers
After Loop 5/Finish: Half can Dr. Pepper, Reese's Peanut Butter cup

As my last point, let me say that this race was incredibly well done. The course was fantastic (though the mud made me hate it the last 3 loops) and very well marked (as the snow disappeared all the markings were revealed). For my $32 entry fee I got massive quantities of food, clean porta potties, and  two shirts (one for signing up and a finisher's shirt when I was done). I would recommend this race or any race put on by Bullseye Running. They were warm, welcoming, and definitely know what they are doing. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mid-Maryland 50k: Goals

Has it been 5 weeks since that last race already? Wow time flies. This Saturday I will be running the Mid-Maryland 50k put on by the Bullseye Running Club in Maryland. It's toted as being a "tame trail run, good for beginners or someone looking to run a fast 50k." I like the sound of that!

The course is 5 10k loops. I don't know much more about it than that. I found an elevation profile somewhere random online from someone's Garmin and it didn't look too bad. There will be one aid station with the usual pretzels, PB&J, gels, etc. 

The way I see it, I will either love the loop or curse it's very existance and die a little bit inside each time I have to run it. Optimism is the name of the game.

10k loops on the red line
As for weather, it's not looking great, but at least it's not like two weeks ago.

You know what's awesome about blogging? Having your very own written words to look back on at a later point in time. This can be quite helpful. After my trying first 50k in January I wrote a post about what I learned and what I needed to work on before my next attempt:

1. Train on trails - check
2. Spend less time at aid stations - good reminder, will do!
3. Don't bring lots of stuff when aid stations are numerous - aid station every 6 miles, packing light!
4. If you have to walk, power walk - good reminder, will do!
5. Race on more trails - that's exactly what I'll be doing. Hoorah!

I should do this after every race. It's super helpful!

On to some goals:

Goal #1: To not look like this

Goal #2: Finish

Considering I nearly had a mental breakdown halfway through the last 50k I think I still need to state this as a definitive goal.

Goal #3: PR

As in something under the 7 hours and 21 minutes it took me last time. Granted last time wasn't a real timed race, but even more reason to work hard and get an officially timed one in the books that I'm happy with. Last time I feel like I didn't "race". I just "experienced (died)." This time I want to race!

Goal #4: Follow reminders 2 and 4 (above)

I'm gonna be a speed walking, fly so fast through an aid station you can't even see me, racing fiend!

Now it's time to sit back and try not to let my nerves take over for the next 24 hours.